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Anthrax

Last update: 2022-06-07

Key facts

Transmission

  • Direct contact of infected animal products with broken skin (a cut or scrape)
  • Eating infected animal meat or products
  • Breathing in anthrax spores, usually from infectious animal products

Symptoms

  • For skin anthrax: itching and swelling, a small blister turns into a black sore (painless). Some people can have headaches, muscle aches, fever and vomiting.
  • When eaten (ingested): nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting (including of blood in
  • severe cases).
  • When inhaled: cough, chest pain, fever and difficulty in breathing.

Prevention

  • Disease surveillance in animals
  • Vaccination of livestock (animals)
  • Safe handling and slaughtering practices, including supervision and meat inspection
  • Social mobilization and behaviour change communication
  • Handwashing with soap.
  • Cook animal products thoroughly (meat, milk, blood).
  • People working with animals or animal products should wear protective clothing and equipment (boots, gloves, aprons, masks) and follow recommended hygiene practices.

Vulnerable people

  • People who work closely with animals or with animal products (e.g. farmers, veterinarians, employees of slaughterhouses etc.)

If an epidemic occurs

  • Detect sick people quickly and refer them to health facilities
  • Increase social mobilization and behaviour change communication
  • Start disease surveillance of animals
  • Quarantine animal herds with anthrax (limit contact between sick and healthy animals, stop
  • sick animals from reaching market, etc.)
  • Vaccinate (ring) all animals/livestock at risk
  • Promote handwashing with soap
  • Make sure that animal products (meat, milk, blood) are cooked thoroughly
  • Burn or bury animal carcasses safely
  • Follow safe animal handling and slaughtering practices
  • Farm workers and people entering infected farms/areas should wear appropriate protective clothing and equipment
  • People working with animals or animal products should wear protective clothing and equipment (boots, gloves, aprons, masks) and follow recommended hygiene practices

Community-based assessment - questions

Make a map of the community and mark the information you gather on the map. Record other details.

  • When did people start to fall sick with anthrax?
  • How many people have fallen sick with anthrax? Where?
  • How many people have died from anthrax? Where?
  • How many animals have died from anthrax? Where?
  • Which type of anthrax is infecting people?
  • Who and where are the vulnerable people (who work with animals or animal products)?
  • What animals do people commonly keep or farm?
  • What are the community’s practices and beliefs about care and slaughter of animals?
  • What are the community’s practices and beliefs about sick or dead animals? How do people dispose of animal carcasses (by burning, burying, eating, etc.)?
  • Do people cook meat and milk thoroughly before eating it?
  • Are there handwashing facilities in the community, at animal markets and other areas where livestock gather? Are soap and water always available?
  • Do any animal health agencies, veterinarians, or agriculture ministry agencies work in the area?
  • Where are the local health facilities and services? (Include traditional or community carers from whom people seek advice.)
  • What are the community’s habits, practices and beliefs about caring for and feeding sick people?
  • Is a social mobilization or health promotion programme in place?
  • Which sources of information do people use most?
  • Are rumours or is misinformation about anthrax spreading in the community?